Saugus TV’s new interim director unveils a plan to fix auditorium acoustics after years of talk, but no action
Town officials and citizens alike have been complaining for years about the inability to hear citizens comment from the lectern or selectmen discussion of important issues in the second floor auditorium at Town Hall. It’s rare for the Board of Selectmen to complete meetings without complaints about the acoustics in the historic room where town business is conducted.
But newly appointed Saugus TV Interim Director Rachel Brugman at Tuesday (May 9) night’s meeting briefed selectmen on plans she has for upgrading the sound system so that poor acoustics doesn’t make it difficult for citizens – including town officials – to hear testimony at public meetings. Brugman told selectmen she got a bid from a second company – Pro AV Systems Audio Visual Technologies – to do the project for $107,084. But she said she decided to go with the low bidder – Key Media – which gave her a quote of $85,000 while offering to do more than Pro AV.
“I think that’s terrific,” Board of Selectmen Vice Chair Debra Panetta told Brugman. “That’s something that we’ve needed for a long time,” Panetta said.
Selectman Michael Serino lauded Brugman for addressing the longstanding problem in a short time after being appointed interim director. “We’ve been promised this for years,” Serino said.
A quick fix after years of talking
Brugman said the improvements could be made within a month after the project is begun. But as a formality, Saugus TV must go before the Finance Committee for a recommendation before getting approval of the requested budget increase at a Special Town Meeting.
“The Town Hall has been persistently grappling with audio issues for years, primarily attributed to the deteriorated state of the current audio rack, which requires immediate replacement,” Brugman said in a statement this week to The Saugus Advocate.
“Additionally, the audio system’s original design catered to having the selectmen situated on stage, posing a challenge in adjusting the microphones and speakers. Consequently, the current layout curtails the speaker volume, leading to feedback and unsatisfactory audio quality,” Brugman said. “To overcome these issues, we plan to acquire state-of-the-art audio equipment and relocate the speakers in front of the selectmen. This measure will enhance our capacity to amplify the sound in the auditorium, without any feedback interference, providing the audience with superior audio experiences.”
In an interview later, Panetta – who has often complained about the auditorium’s poor acoustics – said she is “very pleased” that the town could soon be getting the needed acoustical improvements in the Town Hall auditorium. “We sometimes have difficulty hearing applicants, and we even have difficulties hearing each other on the Board,” Panetta told The Saugus Advocate.
“I know the audience has a very hard time hearing what’s being said, which is why I always try to speak directly into the microphone. It’s hard enough for many people to speak publicly, and to ask someone to repeat themselves makes it that much more difficult,” she said. “These acoustic upgrades will significantly improve our meetings and events at Town Hall, and I’m sure Town Meeting will welcome these improvements as well.”